Anyone who goes to Gustavus knows about J-term. Students are given one month to take one class that is most likely not in their major field. Students at Gustavus have had opinions on J-Term since its inception, many beginning with “why,” “how,” or “what.”
What is the purpose of a J-Term? Why do we need to take two? How come we don’t just have a schedule like the public colleges? Gustavus has always done its best to answer said questions, but the tide of students is rarely quelled.
J-Term is not just a time for unique classes, it also provides students the opportunity to work and make extra money, participate in an internship, or be home with family. The month off of “regular” classes is not a waste of time: many employers give college students a chance to engage in opportunities that only arise during the school year.
As an incoming freshman, I believed that every student took a J-Term class every J-Term; this was until the time came for J-Term registration my first year and I learned that we were not limited to on-campus classes. A learning experience outside of the classroom is just as valid – or sometimes even more valid – as those in a classic classroom setting. I had friends who were doing field experiences in veterinary offices, as well as friends who decided to stay home and work full-time to save for future semester fees. I, myself, had the opportunity to shadow in a high school to see whether or not I could picture myself as a teacher. Spoiler alert – I loved every second of it and it confirmed the fact that I wanted to pursue a career in education.
Had I not spent that time in the field during my first-ever J-Term, I would have spent my time questioning whether or not I would enjoy myself while actually working in the education field.
As much as I loved discussing education in a college classroom, it is very different than the actual act of teaching students in real-life. Most other major/field concentrations can do field-experiences during the summer, but schools are not open during the summer. Therefore, that time of year becomes the default option.
The friend of mine who got to do the field experience in the veterinarian office found out that she did, indeed, want to pursue veterinarian school. Without that affirmation, the money, time, and energy spent on Vet school would have been based on a guess.
Yes, students could do an internship during the summer pertaining to their future field, but many college students need to spend the summer focusing on making and saving money to pay for the very education I have been discussing. Even if they are able to pursue an unpaid, or very lowly paid internship/field experience during the summer, they have to commit three months to this exploration B y that point, jobs are not hiring such short-term work and internships are full.
For my second J-Term, I spent a month traveling in Germany with 20+ other Gusties. It was the experience of a lifetime and unlike anything else I have ever experienced.
That being said, it did exhaust much of the savings I had compiled up until that point. Hotels, food, souvenirs, and travel, in general, are certainly not cheap, although very worth it. This leads me to my third J-Term of my Gustavus experience: staying home and nannying to make up for the money spent on my J-Term abroad. During that time I was able to work on creative projects, nanny for a multitude of amazing families, and most importantly, spend time at home with my family I do not get to see enough.
J-Term gives Gustavus students a chance to experience a variety of things, from internships, to unique classes to extra work shifts. It is a valuable part of the liberal arts curriculum and should remain that way.